The L-Word (I Didn’t Know)

Sometimes when you read something really poignant, it sticks with you even if the original topic is not what you yourself are considering.  I read something in the blog of an amazing writer I know today that really made think.  Perhaps it was the day I had today, or perhaps I just saw something in her words:

“Whether you’ve been in a long-distance relationship or not, how or why did you decide to move closer (or move in) with your person?”

This question made me think for hours.  Through my meetings, though homework, through grading and still more homework.  Here’s the blog:  http://thenicktr.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/the-live-in-girl/

I couldn’t figure out why this thought bugged me until now.  I remember.  I remember that I never really wanted my relationship; I remember that I didn’t dive in with both feet.  That I didn’t dive in at all.  I just sort of…fell.

*

The night that I knew I was going to marry my (now) ex was actually a morning.  One in the morning, in fact.  I was coming home from a twelve hour shift at the gas station I was running.  The day had been a cesspool of retail-related drama, and I wanted nothing more than to go home to my apartment, sink onto the couch, and devour my brand new DVD— “Joan of Arcadia” Season One.  As I was driving down the dark unlit road into our tiny town, I had a thought.  I wanted to see him.  I had worked all day, I was exhausted, but I wanted to see him.  Instead of turning to my house, I went the opposite direction and parked in front of his around the corner.  We sat at the piano together that night and both uttered the l-word.

I didn’t know what it meant.  I don’t think he did either.

When I left that night to go back around the corner to my apartment, I told myself that I was going to marry him.  And I did.

*

Two months before our wedding, we left the church we had been attending due to a series of unfortunate events with my ex’s mother.  We found another church for relatively cheap, but we lost our catering and our minister.  We had to find someone else to do the marriage counseling.  But someone we found all of these things in just enough time.  As one thing fell apart, another thing solved itself.  Around and around and around.

Until the night of the rehearsal dinner, when I got the phone call that my soon-to-be father in law had lit the side of the deck on fire making the chicken.

I should have seen the signs, but I didn’t know what love meant.

*

The night before my wedding, I remember sitting on my bed with my then best friend as she painted my toenails silver and told me I was making a horrible mistake.  She believed, with all of her heart, that I would die if I married him.  “Maybe God has another plan for you.  Maybe the fact that the wedding plans kept falling apart is a sign that He wants you somewhere else.  He’s not good for you.”  She thought that she would never see me again.

I didn’t understand what she meant until hours after she left.  It was three in the morning, and I was staring at my ceiling.  I had been incredibly excited about the wedding, the pretty dress and the flowers and my family and friends.  But did I love him?  Was I excited about him?  Was I making the wrong choice?  The fact that she was the third friend to cry upon realizing I was really going to marry him perhaps should have been an indication.  In my heart, I believed there wasn’t anyone else out there for me.

Did I love him?  I didn’t know the meaning of the word.

*

Two weeks after my decision to, as I put it in my head “marry that boy someday,” I had to ban him from coming inside my apartment.  I believed in the idea of not having sex outside of marriage, and he did not.  He claimed to.  But things were different when it was dark and the lights were down, when we were alone.  I wasn’t comfortable with him anymore, and I told him he couldn’t come over alone again until we were married.  He became quite angry.  One thing led to another, and then we were in the parking lot of the building and I was on the ground with a boatload of pain in my elbow.  He had shoved me to the ground.  I got in the car and drove away, ignoring his frantic pounding on the windows.  But when he followed me in his own car and cut me off in the middle of the country highway, I listened to his apology.  I went back.  I believed he could change.  I also knew that he was the only one who would ever love me.

He never changed.  And whether he loved me or not, I don’t know if he knew what the word meant either.

I didn’t know what love meant.

*

We got back from our honeymoon, and I had to go to work the very next night.  I didn’t have any time after church to go home and wanted to go through a drive-thru.  He informed me that the three dollars I spent were my three dollars to eat off of for the day.  There would be no more food money after that.

That was the beginning of the end of things.  Day thirteen.  But it would take me over five years and a lot of tragedy to figure that out.

I didn’t know what love meant.

*

I believe that we can find ourselves in relationships for the wrong reasons.  I didn’t want to be alone, so I married the first person who came along.  I tried to love him, and I tried to change him.  But I couldn’t love him because I didn’t love myself, and I couldn’t change him because nobody has the power to change anybody else.  I let him change me.  While the decisions were made by him, I didn’t do anything to stop him.  I didn’t know how.  I can see that now, and I know better than I did then.  I let our relationship mess my life up so badly that I couldn’t tell up from down by the time I left it.  Even though we’re apart now, the remains still linger in my soul, my life.  I’m just now learning how to separate myself from them and take the steps I need to towards who I really am.

Maybe I don’t know what love means.  But I’m learning.

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